Will Preston

Tag: Peter Molynuex

Nothing says ‘Assassin’ like ‘Cyborg Assassin’

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Remake This!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there once existed a games developer known as Bullfrog Productions Ltd. One of the founders of this videogame production company was a young man known by the name of Peter Molyneux. During its 16 year run, Bullfrog produced a lot of classic sim and strategy games such as Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper and Populous. Eventually, Peter left Bullfrog and formed Lionhead Sudios, where he began his favourite hobby: overhyping. The rest is history. The classic games made during this time lived on through similar titles. However, there was one game series that has not continued for nearly 15 years. The game was called Syndicate and was regarded as one of the best games ever by a fair few publications.

This is the least subtle way to play the game

Syndicate takes place in the near future where corporations rule over the world rather than governments. You take the role of a growing corporation in Europe with plans for world domination. But rather than play the stock market like a bandit and having endless business meetings to further your empire, you have access to your own team of cyborg assassins. You control the assassins on different missions throughout the world to gain control of various countries. These missions can be anything from assassinating an important figure from a rival business firm to ‘persuading’ a scientist to join your cause.

No idea why there's a purple sky, though

For their time, the graphics were pretty good, and so was the violence. Through progress, you get access to various bits of weaponry. When you start the game, you only have the usual pistol, shotgun and Uzi medley, but towards the end you’ll be tearing up sections of dystopian street with gauss guns and lasers. Did I mention that there are civilians and policemen wondering around the streets? One of the controversial elements for its time was the possibility to murder innocent bystanders in a bloody mess. This does attract police attention, but nothing is stopping you from popping a copper with a well placed shot. Needless to say, it is better to avoid the heat and concentrate on the mission without having to add needless tallies on your kill-o-meter.

Still no news about a 'Penis-gun'

Navigating the levels could be done by walking (which can be upgraded with turbo legs. They are cyborgs, remember?), or by driving. In the future, all cars are restricted to a maglev system and an autopilot built in to the car. This provides for some great drive by opportunities without having to worry about where the car is going. The cities don’t look half bad either. Cars go about their usual day and civilians walk around until they enter your crossfire. Various doors can be opened leading to one of the main problems with the game: indoor combat. Rather than fade out the building exterior for a better look, the developers decided to go for the option of showing you where you are without showing what you’re in, so to speak. This has caused quite a bit of confusion when entering a heavily armed bank, for example. An option to allow the assassins to think for themselves in combat saves this flaw from ruining the game.

In between missions, you get to sit back and watch your income slowly come crawling in, as well as raising and lowering taxes. The main thing to do in these little intermissions, though, is to improve and upgrade your agents. You have a research team on standby to think up new guns and parts for your assassin team. Yes, parts. If you watched the video trailer, you can see that the initiates have their limbs replaced with robot parts. This allows for abilities like being able to run faster and retain more damage. It sounds hideous at first, but after a few missions, you’ll wonder how you ever got on with your boring fleshy legs. Syndicate is an early example of what squad based combat games should play like, and its gameplay and cyberpunk influence can be seen in plenty of games today.

Remake?

The 3D graphics weren't really needed

3D graphics don't always improve games

In 1996, Bullfrog released the sequel Syndicate Wars, which continued on where the first game finished. The graphics were updated to 3D and buildings in the game could be destroyed. Apart from this, the core gameplay was untouched and left how it should have been. Since then, nothing has been said until recently when it was confirmed by Electronic Arts that a new Syndicate would be in the works. Hopefully, this won’t be overhyped into disappointment as Molyneux won’t be involved. Until then, the game can only be found as an old DOS copy, if you’re lucky.

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It’s a tale of two games, well more 80/20 than 50/50

by on Nov.09, 2010, under Review, Video Games

Me and Mr Molyneux have had a very weird relationship so far. Every time a new game is in the works at Lionhead Studios, he promises me the world and more as he playfully kisses my finger. Wanting all his promises to be true, I give a girlish giggle, blush and say that of course I’ll get excited about the new release. But by the time the game comes out, he never fulfilled all his promises. He’s already buggered off to work on the next project before I’ve had a chance to nag his ear off. But that’s the world of mainstream gaming for you. A lot of highly decorated disappointment. Not to say that he produces bad games. He produces fantastic games, but games not nearing their full potential.

Which brings us to Fable 3.

Clean cut prince

As you would remember, I was bloody excited about the new features you can do in the new Fable. Well, mainly the fact you can be a king, but we’ll get on to that later. A lot has changed in the gameplay since the last one. There is now no list style start menu (well there is one when pausing during a cut scene), instead you are transported to a sanctuary where all pause menu decisions are made by you moving your man around a few rooms. It’s brilliant. Mid battle, I pause, go into my sanctuary, move to the weapons rooms and browse my spell rack and other tid bits in a nicely decorated armoury. It’s a lot more fun than menu scrolling, but a bit off putting for first time users.

Also, there’s a lot of streamlining going on. The various different weapons have been mostly replaced with one type of sword/hammer/pistol//rifle. The idea behind this is that the weapon changes as you go through the game. It does, but the money and time spent buying and upgrading weapons has now gone. Something I rather enjoyed doing. Ah well. But the biggest change was one that really intrigued me; the main character and story. Previously, you were always a little gutter snipe enjoying life until something broke your equilibrium. Then you had to train to fight and vanquish a great evil blah blah blah. OK, the great evil is still there, but you’re now a prince. A prince who you can play as and can talk (a first in the series!). Your brother is an evil tyrant (Played by the Englishman from Inglorious Basterds) who is ruling Albion with dickish fist during the industrial age.

A steam punk subway station

That was another thing that appealed to me; the age of industry. Instead of always sticking the medieval set up, the series has moved nicely through different ages of England’s past. From running around peasant villages, I’m now running through built up smoggy factory towns. Brilliant. But back to the dickhead king. After a few alterations, you run away from the castle with your Butler (John Cleese) and your trainer, Sir Walter Beck (that king from Lord Of The Rings). It’s time for a revolution. It’s supposed to be a game of two halves, but the first half takes so much time, the second looks slightly tacked on at the last minute. It’s the usual Fable affair. Go through quests doing good or bad, do things on the side, buy property, build your skills, make pies. It’s up to you. The experience is now on one meter instead of four and you can only equip one spell at a time, but once you get a second spell gauntlet, you can cast combination spells. Another first for the series.

There’s nothing much else to say except that it’s business as usual from here on. There are some great side quests and the fighting has taken a few tips from Batman: Arkham Asylum. After discovering the new country of Aurora (a desert dwelling country), you are then shown your mission for the second halve of the game, but first, you need to vanquish your brother. You get to stage a revolution that has you fighting through the city streets until you claim the throne. Now this was the part that got me excited. Mr Molyneux made a few promises about city management, keeping the public happy, the consequences of leaving your place on the throne too much and family members being greedy. All lies.

But it’s still a good concept, just deflated. You have to prepare your country for war and are given 365 days to raise enough funds to keep Albion safe. But you’ve made promises to be a nice king at this point, so you constantly have to make money making decisions or decision that please your people and keep your promises. I decided to be a bloody nice king, but try to raise the funds; by property owning and pie making. Yes, I was such a skilled pie maker at this point that I was preparing crusts to fund the treasury . I couldn’t depend on the property income system of giving me money when the Xbox is turned off, so I had to work this time around.

Outrageous 'tash's aplenty in this game!

It kind of got me thinking that this would be funny in a real life situation; David Cameron doing manual labour or cooking in order to get the economy back on it’s knees. Maybe that’s where democracy is going wrong? But in the end, I decided to get as much property in and all the income went to the city treasury. By this point the year was nearly up and I had made mostly nice decision: not turning an orphanage in a brothel. Not cutting down trees for industry. Making sure people were safe. But I broke a few for money. It then made me realise that this is Mr Molynuex’s slightly disguised attempt to make the player understand all the difficult decisions he had to choose when making the game. In the end, the war came and I lost about 90% of my population; the remaining were very angry at me. That was the ending. What a cop out. It’s like spending 3 years in education then having a graduation ceremony behind the bike sheds.

Saying that though, I’m now going through the game again being as evil as I can. I can’t win can I? It’s a good game, but you will enjoy the experience more of you put your fingers in your ears every time Mr Molyneux starts talking about the plans he had for it. Because the man is a liar. A charming, intelligent, good game-making liar.

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Where can I place bets on ‘Best RPG’?

by on Sep.29, 2010, under First Look

'Fallout: New Venis' is possibly in the works...

It’s a franchise that keeps promising the world on a plate but by the time this perfect cuisine reaches the table, we’re forking the life out of it. Bugs here. Glitch here. Empty promises on some aspects. But there’s still a good meal at the table, so there’s no point in noising around. The first Fable felt like a massive upgrade to Zelda. There were the usual Lionhead elements of good and evil choices being made woven into the typical RPG elements.

At first it felt only slightly out of the ordinary for this sort of affair, but it would soon turn out to be the tip of the tortoise head of what is leading to be an amazing concept; Working your way up from the lowest to the highest. From pauper to king. It’s basically what Grand Theft Auto have been replicating over again, but this time, Fable strike the lightening spell just right. I’ve only just completed the second Fable game and there is already mentions of what happens in the next instalment; a bit late for me at this stage as the news is already out. The news is that you can be a king! And not the floating around in the sky pointing at people in a Civilization way. Oh no! We’re on the lines of rolling up your sleeves if need be.

Fable 2 dabbled with this idea with letting you buy and own all the property in certain towns, but it was a hollow idea. I mean, once you’ve bought all the property that’s it. No ceremony. No recognition. Just a lot of income and property. It’s a bit like becoming the manager of a McDonalds store and finding yourself still wearing the crappy cap and serving grease to chavs. However, I imagine Burger King to uphold a respectable and strict hierarchy system. It’s in their name, for beefs sake! But coming back to the King concept, Peter Molyneux has given the good/evil system great potential of how much of a gods chosen monarch or right royal bastard you can be. After all, we’ve had our fair share in real life, eh? A major point of the story has already been revealed with the king feature in the form of another country by the name of Aurora. It would come as no surprise that your home country of Albion will wage a massive war against this country whilst you’re at the throne. It’s an exciting prospect for this series.

The furniture options are improving as well...

thing worth dribbling a bit at is the progression of setting. The first Fable was set in a typical medieval setting, the second based around the late 18th century with highwaymen and flintlocks, and now the third progresses that little bit more to bring us into the steam age. Think about it: Magic, swords and steam powered justice. That fapping noise you’re hearing is the physical delight of a group of steam punk enthusiasts. I don’t blame the fapping; early looks at Bowerstone give it a suitably more industrial feel with massive factories and steamboats. Whilst it’s a bit early to be labelling this as a possible perfect game, it’s sure is heading in the right direction.

We’ll have to wait til next month to see whether it will be crowned greatest RPG ever. With John Cleese and Simon Pegg already confirmed as voice actors, I know who’s side I’m on!

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